20 Funny Italian Sayings about Food
Anyone who has an Italian friend knows this: Italian sayings about food fill every conversation.
Italians love to eat, they love to talk and they love to talk about eating! According to a recent survey, 51% of Italians discuss food every day.
Many foreigners are amazed at the time Italians spend preparing and enjoying meals. From the habit of bringing the whole family together. also extended, for Sunday lunch, to the lunch break during the week which usually lasts at least an hour. In other countries, from Argentina to the UK, it’s more common to have a quick meal in front of the computer, or for each family member to eat at different times.
It is normal for Italians to gather around a table. It is not only important what you eat, but also with whom you eat. That’s why the Italian language is full of sayings and proverbs about food that are also related to the family.
The most common Italian Sayings about Food and Family
1.Parla come mangi.
Literally “Speak the way you eat!”
It is said almost as a rebuke to those who use difficult terms or difficult Italian words when it is not necessary. It is an invitation to speak simply and clearly, just like Italian cuisine.
2. Non tutte le ciambelle escono col buco.
Literally “Not all doughnuts come out with a hole”
It is used when the result is not quite as expected. But it helps to put things in perspective: on many doughnuts, some come out of the oven without a hole. Try again and you will be luckier.
3. Essere come il prezzemolo.
Literally “Being like parsley.”
Parsley is used extensively in different recipes. It is said of a person who is everywhere, on every occasion and in any place, perhaps even in a somewhat intrusive way.
4. Tutto fa brodo.
Anything goes, literally “everything makes broth”.
It means that everything can find its usefulness. The ingredients of the broth are different, they can also be scraps, such as the peel of vegetables or the scraps of fish cuts. Yet broth is the key ingredient for the success of tasty soups and risottos. Even what seems useless, or waste, turns out to be important.
5. Cosa bolle in pentola.
Literally “What’s boiling in the pot” is another metaphor linked to the soup’s world. It is said to refer to something that is secretly being prepared. In the Middle Ages, the basis of the peasant diet was a soup cooked in a pot that always remained on the fire.
During the day, vegetables, roots, meat scraps and legumes were added depending on what was available. This is why it was difficult to trace the exact composition of the dish. From this custom, the expression indicates a preparation or a mysterious plan.
6. Liscio come l’olio.
Literally smooth as oil is used to indicate a situation that takes place without complications, without ripples like the surface of the oil.
Italian sayings about food: bread and wine
7. Buono come il pane.
Literally “good as bread”, the humble and noble food at the same time, present on every table, is the appropriate metaphor to indicate a good, meek and altruistic person.
8. È finita a tarallucci e vino.
Literally “It ended with tarallucci and wine” derived from the habit of serving taralli (savoury or sweet biscuits) and wine to guests as a sign of welcome. The expression indicates a situation, initially complicated, which ends peacefully, in a friendly atmosphere like that of a dinner with tarallucci and wine offered to guests.
In the journalistic field, this saying has taken on a more negative and less accommodating connotation. It is also used to indicate derogatory political agreements or compromises reached between two political parties, apparently distant and irreconcilable, only to safeguard personal and non-public interests.
9. Nella botte piccola, c’è il vino buono.
Literally “In small barrels, there is good wine” deriving from the tendency of winemakers to keep the part of the wine considered best in smaller barrels. This should enhance its aromas and flavours. It is used to emphasize that apparently insignificant objects, or people of short stature, may have valuable qualities that are revealed with more careful observation or knowledge.
10. Rendere pan per focaccia.
To give tit for tat. Literally “Give back bread for dough”.
Today this Italian saying has a negative meaning, it is used to say that one responds in a proportionate manner to the wrong suffered. This saying, already known in Boccaccio’s time, derives instead from a custom of good neighbourliness when bread was made at home. If there was no flour, you could borrow focaccia, that is the raw dough, from the neighbours. The favour was often repaid in the form of freshly baked bread.
Italian sayings about food: egg, fish and meat food
11. Pieno come un uovo.
Literally “full as an egg” can be referred to either a person to indicate a sense of exaggerated satiety, close to excess, or to a place filled to the limit. Indeed, the egg inside is perfectly filled with yolk and albumen.
12. Avere il prosciutto sugli occhi.
Literally “having ham on your eyes” is an Italian saying that probably dates back to the second half of the 19th century and originates in Emilia Romagna or Tuscany, areas famous for the production of cured meats. It is usually used to point out someone’s carelessness or to refer to a situation that is so obvious that it is impossible not to notice it. Eg: “Didn’t you see that it rains? Hai il prosciutto sugli occhi? “.
13. Il pesce puzza sempre dalla testa.
Literally “the fish always stinks from the head” is a way of saying that if something is wrong, whoever has a responsibility or is in charge of something, sets an example to follow as well as making decisions that fall on others, so it will be his/her fault if things go wrong.
14. Rompere le uova nel paniere.
Literally “breaking the eggs in the basket” means ruining the plans of others, intruding unexpectedly, perhaps even involuntarily, but still causing a different outcome than the one hoped for.
Italian sayings about food: fruit
15. Essere l’altra metà della mela.
Literally “being the other half of the apple” for someone means being a soul mate, the missing piece to make the whole. The expression derives from the myth of the two halves described in Plato’s Symposium.
16. Al contadino non far sapere quant’è buono il cacio con le pere.
Literally “Do not let the farmer know how good cheese is with pears” is a proverb with two interpretations. Cheese and pears are a dish composed of a poor and a rich ingredient, pears, which are difficult to preserve in the Middle Ages. A combination that was more favourable to the gentleman than to the farmer.
The proverb, however, reveals the reactionary intention of the dominant group, the gentlemen, who want to exclude the peasants from a piece of certain knowledge.
Today the underlying meaning of the proverb is not to reveal the advantageous use of something to those who can become your competitor and exclude you from a favourable position [Carlo Lapucci, Dizionario dei proverbi italiani© Mondadori 2007].
17. La mela non cade mai lontana dall’albero.
Literally “the apple never falls far from the tree”, means that children are very similar to their parents, in their way of thinking and their behaviours. It can be used both in a positive sense, to highlight merits, and in a negative sense, to underline defects.
18. Fare le nozze coi fichi secchi
Literally “making a wedding with dried figs” is an expression that highlights the inadequacy of certain choices with respect to the means at one’s disposal. For example, the desire to save excessively even on occasions where saving is impossible, such as weddings.
19.Siamo alla frutta.
We’re done. This Italian saying refers to the custom at the end of the meal of ending with fruit. It is used to say that the energy or the strategies to get out of a problem are exhausted, or that we are too tired after a long day.
20. Essere la ciliegina sulla torta.
Being the icing on the cake refers to the final touch, the detail that completes and refines.
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